Lois Farag believes that "if you want to understand the church today, you need to understand what the church was like in its formative years."
Early Christians were consumed by the discussion of theology and spirituality. And there was an extraordinary concern with the Bible and its interpretation. "Christianity was a way of life, not simply a name," Farag says.
She also stresses the human aspect of the early church. People of that time were much like us, and they asked many of the same questions that we do. And because human nature doesn't change, the early church also dealt with the same problems as we do — politics, finances, and disagreements. The lesson here is that "God has taken care of the church, from early times until now," Farag says.
She points out that we owe the foundation of our faith to the early church. This was the time when the Biblical canon was defined. Fundamental doctrines like the nature of Christ and the Trinity were also defined, and the Nicene Creed was written.
But to understand the writings of important figures like Athanasius, Cyril of Alexandria, Augustine, and Ambrose, one must understand the times they lived in. "Every new generation must learn about the context of these important documents," Farag says.
A nun in the Coptic Orthodox Church, Farag holds a master's of divinity from Harvard Divinity School and a doctorate in early Christian studies from The Catholic University of America. She was drawn to Luther because of its high ethical standards: "People here are truly living the Word."
Farag hopes that her students will be inspired by the example of early Christians. "It was hard to keep the faith in those days," she says. "But in a way, it was also easy because the faithful supported each other. And for that reason, the early church was fruitful."